EMERGING PROSPECTS FOR INVESTMENT IN THE TAR SANDS RESOURCES
Previous attempts at attracting investors to the tar sand resource of Nigeria (1990s, 2002-2003, 2006) have either produced Investors who lacked the technical capability and financial muzzle the types required for a subsector like the tar sand's or those who wanted the blocks for other purposes other than development. The defunct Bitumen Project Implementation Committee between 2002 and 2005 drilled 16 coreholes in Blocks 1 and 2 of the belt. Out of the 16, 5 penetrated bituminous sands at depths varying from 60 to 94.83 m. The average thickness of the pay zones was found to be 6m. With the country's return to democracy in 1999, Government commenced a major reform of the economy. A major focus of the reform was the privatization of most Government interests in all the sector of the economy. lmportantly, the reform in the solid mineralls subsector transformed the nature of Government participation from that of owner-operator to administrator-regulator. With greater availability of data and in fulfillment of government's privatization drive, the bitumen belt was delineated into six prospective blocks with an average of 600 km2 each in area extent.
To further generate more stratigraphical data, the BPIC between January 2006 and September 2007 drilled 33 core holes in Blocks 5 and 6. Ten of the wells penetrated various thicknesses of bituminous sands at depths varying from 6.4 to 81 m. The average thickness of bituminous pay zones was found to be 7m. The other 23 sites were drilled in the southern fringes of the belt where bituminous sands are known to exist at depths beyond 150 m, nearing those for heavy crude accumulation. To date, four of the blocks (1, 2, 3 and 4) have been sold to investors. Two blocks 5 and 6 are to be placed for bidding in the immediate future. Abundant investment opportunities abound in the sub-sector as some of those who won the four privatized blocks are desperately in need of partnering with reputable outfits having required technology and access to finance. Government is also reviewing the entire sales and purchase procedure for blocks to make participation easier and development achievable. Government has created a favourable climate for business and industries ventures. Infrastructures have improved, administrative and bureaucratic procedures are being streamlined while exchange control regulations have been liberalized to ensure a free flow of international finance. There is now unrestricted movement of investment capital. Certain basic facilities favourable for conducting business'exist in the country.
- A fairly developed infrastructure such as road network, deep ocean ports and jetties.
- A network of gas and oil pipelines
- lmproved communication system
- Dynamit banking community
- Relaxed foreign exchange for capital raising
- Large local and sub-regional market for bitumen sales
- Existing joint venture opportunities
- A large community of geoscientists and engineers
- A commitment to privatisation